Just the name is evocative of strong will: Brogan’s Way. Brogan (and honestly, have you ever heard that Australian a name before? Brogan must have been a Home and Away character at some point no?) is a wildly intelligent science-boffin who’s making what we are quite certain is the up there with the best Navy Strength Gins in the country.
In the entire Southern Hemisphere, perhaps. It’s that good.
Knowing the world as we do, we can’t help but fret a little on her behalf. Brogan is not only a woman, she’s a young one, and as we all know, women (particularly young ones) aren’t always given the credit, credence or listening space that they deserve. That said, anyone who underestimates this particular distiller does so to their detriment, and we’re certain they’ll find that out before too long.
The entire brand identity for Mebourne-based Brogan’s Way Distillery is – as you should probably expect – built around Brogan herself. It is all very first person. Many one-man-band (actually, she’s not a one-man-band, but we’ll get to that later) operations speak in ‘we’ terms, perhaps to add a little more credibility to their projects. A roster of invisible staff certainly makes you sound stronger… Our protagonist, though, has not fallen for that trap. “I make gin,” she states on her website. “more accurately, I’m a distiller, but it is gin that has shaped my way.”
She writes passionately, fluidly and slightly evangelically, favouring concepts over stories in her write ups. For example: “When I make gin, here’s what I’m trying to do: I’m trying to connect me to you, you to your friends, everyone in spirited sensation. Making great memories together is at the heart of it all.”
Do you see what we mean? If we’re honest, it’s probably why we’ve become quite so enamoured, quite so quickly. We’re always plucking concepts out of the air, pulling at strange, neon strings that lead us down strange, neon paths. Anyone who operates in such a way – who gets stuck, head first, down the most ludicrous of rabbit holes – will understand the appeal of that. Of watching someone translate their ideas into liquid gold. Of following someone and seeing what they do, not because of the interest in their process but because of their pursuit of an idea. It’s why series like Chef’s Table are so watchable and why, in time, this distillery will find its feet and thrive in a way others won’t fully ever even understand.
Another thing, though, is Brogan Carr’s quite brilliant understanding of flavour. It is not something that can be taught, rather an intrinsic skill that can be trapped and honed. Yes, the distilling takes great scientific knowhow. She’s a trained medical laboratory scientist and has an MSc in Brewing and Distilling, so it’s clear that she’s studied hard, but it’s the way Brogan curates flavour to suit a specific vision that really shows her strengths. That said, we’re skipping ahead, slightly, so we’ll head back to the start…
Brogan’s business partner is her father, Simon Carr. Brogan had been working as a hospital laboratory intern as part of her Medical Laboratory Scientist qualification when Simon decided to quit his three-decade long sting in the automotive industry and follow his long-harboured passion to open a small liquor producer. The timing was right for Brogan, who was feeling her interests in a career as a Medical Scientist wain. Booze production was an opportunity to follow her studies, but in a far more creative way.
Trying to recall the moment the idea moved from afterthought to something slightly more solid, Brogan said: “I am not sure exactly why it happened the way it did. There was no real big moment or special family event, we were just sitting around the dinner table after the meal getting ready to clear away the dishes and somehow the conversation drifted and we each started talking our dream jobs/careers, when Dad literally blurted out something like ‘OK, this is it. I’m going to do it. I don’t want to talk about it anymore, I want to make Gin’. He sounds like our kind of guy…
“I immediately thought it would also be a great thing to do and before I knew it, we started working together to make it happen. There wasn’t really a discussion about whether or not we should work together, just an unspoken understanding from the outset that we were going to make it happen.”
From dinner table to distilling took an incredibly busy three years in total, with neither party willing to cut any corners. Simon, an Industrial Chemist graduate, realised he was ever so slightly rusty so took on an IBD Qualification in Distilling, whilst Brogan made a head start for Herriot Watt, where she obtained her MSc in Brewing & Distilling and wrote a very interesting paper on Australian botanicals.
They divvied up jobs, when it came to the more practical side of getting things done. Simon got to work converting his mechanics chop shop into a distillery (an ironic twist of fate given his former career), whilst Brogan got straight to work on the recipes.
Everyone in their right place, as Brogan explains. “Dad loves playing with the still and making stuff, but how do I say this kindly? He is as heavy handed with distilling flavours as he is with his serves of gin.” Instead, he built the bar, did the endless waltzes with local councils and licensing agencies and got everything ship shape and legal – not the easiest task, especially as it quite often seemed that as soon as one problem was solved, another would rear its head.
There are three gins, at the time of writing: Brogan’s Way Everyday Salvation, Evening Light and Royal Blood. For the first two, Brogan had an exact idea of what she wanted to do from the start and so set about making them in a very structured way. The last, though, was a bit different. All she knew was that she wanted to make a decent Martini gin, one brimming with Aussie botanicals.
All of the Brogan’s Way gins are made using a single shot, London Dry method. Juniper is, generally speaking the only ingredient left to macerate overnight, with the rest of the ingredients added into the pot on the morning of distilling. We say generally because if those tricky Australian botanical require a little extra something, Brogan is on hand to ensure they’re massaged in such a way that the perfect flavour is extracted. The still’s vapour chamber is also used readily, especially in the Dry Gin, wherein the white grapefruit peel is added for maximum freshness.
Everyday Salvation Gin to taste…
On the nose, Strawberry Gum is the first botanical to say hello. For those in Europe who don’t know plant, it’s akin to having the intense flavour of strawberry with the mercurial nature of orange blossom. White grapefruit peel isn’t far behind and while we’re not sure of the everyday salvation that Brogan had in mind, this certainly has the air of a salutation that’s trying to invite you in and quench your thirst.
It’s similar on the tongue, with strawberry gum and zesty white grapefruit peel are clear and distinct upfront, bringing an accessible and approachable start to the journey. Just as they start to fade, the journey transitions into cinnamon myrtle, juniper and onto pepperberry spice on the finish.
It’s simple, soft and quick as a journey, but that’s not to say it doesn’t leave a distinct mark of its own. Its appeal is universal, too – for those still dipping their toe into the gin thing, Everyday Salvation is a great starter. For jaded hacks like us, its simplicity is admirable, it’s clearly lovely and refreshing, if the overall impression leaves us longing for something that has a little more grit and secondary depth to the heart and to finish of the journey. Yes we know – that’s not the point of this offering, but that’s what our mouths calls for.
It definitely suits a hybrid garnish, or something subtler – perhaps raspberries or lemon thyme.
Evening Light Gin to taste…
Described by the distillery as new age Australian gin, you know before you’ve gone anywhere near this that it’s going to be a batshit collection of flavours – a cabinet of Australian curiosities in a bottle. At first glance, it’s all that, too: a fresh, fruity, easy-sipping gin that’s accessible and filled with native botanical personality.
There’s so much more to this gin, though, with a huge depth of character and an interweaving of flavours that place this a notch of accomplishment higher than the Everyday Salvation Gin. Put simply, its unconventional structure makes it a far more complex affair.
On the nose, Evening Light Gin is fresh, with lively flavours of orange, raspberry and grapefruit wafting up first, along with a titillating hint of something more herbal just behind. We’re reliably told this is river mint, and while it’s not distinct it adds an uplifting touch and an added character that lets you know you are in the right place for something fun and different.
To taste, it’s the same start once more, but a fleshy pulp of tropical mango brings a feeling of voluptuous indulgence. The juniper gives it some clarity, while the river mint and strawberry gum add a continued levity, which is brought slightly back to earth with a fiery cassia.
It unfurls as a series of flavours, with each expertly dosed to allow the other the time to make an impact and then dissipate. Even if the flavour doesn’t speak to you personally, the sheer feat of curation and balanced extraction that has gone into this is an undeniably brilliant achievement.
Brogan’s Way Royal Blood Gin to taste…
And now, to the finish, and to our favourite gin of the bunch. This is the Navy Strength we’ve been craving from Australia! The aroma is compelling, with herbaceous rosemary and bay leaf bringing a charismatic soul to the nose, alongside swathes of cardamom and juniper. It’s the kind of smell you linger over – revelling in the utter pleasure flickering at your nostrils.
Herbal aromas and flavours from the rosemary and bay leaf are seasoned with Australian sea parsley, saltbush and roasted wattle seed, giving plenty of good mouthfeel, as well as contemporary flavours.
It’s far more Australian (botanically) to taste, with rosemary and bay still clear, but joined much more vociferously than on the aroma. Old man saltbush, sea parsley and mountain pepper leaf give a huge push to the intensity of flavours all lashing the tongue, before cardamom and its eucalyptol-like tinge emerges unscathed and onto the finish.
Cut with water, the juniper, rosemary, cardamom sequence is clearer, and as a result, if you have to garnish a G&T, we’d opt for an orange peel.
This is an outstanding Navy Strength Gin. We feel, can confidently take a place in as in that top 5 best overproof’s in Australia, for sure, and for fans of more herbal flavour profiles and punchy alcohol content – it’s one to seek out with haste.
We’re hugely excited for this brand. It’s early days, sure, and there is a lot that needs to and that will be undoubtably be polished up as they go along. The size of distillery is clearly built for longevity and growth, while the type of process they have in place is designed to maximise constancy and quality. The open door nature of the location is great to also see as this will help them develop an army of fans in due time. So far everything that needs to be in place to grow as a business and cement a quality gin range has been done and now they are on their journey to improve it and establish it.
The gins are genuinely intriguing and reward those curious enough o discover them. Each offers something entirely different and so, there is something there for everyone too.
And while, in all honesty, we’d argue that not all are *quite* as Gin-y as Gin could be (Australian native botanicals have a tendency to push classicism to one side), we think this has been done tongue firmly in cheek and knowing just where she wants her creations to sit. Brogan herself loves a juniper-forward gin, so any deviation from the path has not been performed cynically, as a way of selling bottles, but from a sheer love of experimentation and because it suits the connection she is looking to make through the spirits she produces.
Seek this out and support this young distiller as there is some real potential in what Brogan’s Way could achieve, but more importantly, what they can inspire others to do in the way they communicate about distilling as a creative medium in which concepts are articulated and imbued into liquid form.
We for one will be watching on (and sipping) wishing them the best.
Copyright © Gin Foundry